It’s late in the evening, you are winding down from your day and mindlessly scrolling on your feed while your favourite show runs in the background. You slowly notice your mood turning sour as you see post after post of your friends going on trips, getting married, and having new exciting experiences. One of your friends even went to that new restaurant that you’ve wanted to go to for a while! FOMO sets in and now your whole evening is ruined.
Social media provides an opportunity for users to exaggerate or even fabricate their life experiences which tends to make the viewers experience FOMO. This fear of missing out on exciting life experiences is a lot of times accompanied by feelings of loneliness (Barry & Wong, 2020), envy (Zylinski & Davis, 2022), and social exclusion.
What is the impact of FOMO on our mental health?
There have been quite a few studies conducted to understand the impact of FOMO on our mental wellbeing. It has been observed that an increased level of FOMO can result in increased negative affect, increased fatigue, and higher levels of stress, and can even disrupt sleep. Individuals have reported feeling more distracted and are less focused on the activity they are presently involved in.
How do we deal with this feeling of social exclusion?
Many researchers suggest changing the perspective from the fear of missing out, to the joy of missing out (or JOMO) is necessary to combat FOMO. With its help, individuals can
Be more mindful of our social relationships
Embrace and be present in the time spent away from social media
Escape the constant comparison which arises with social media use and spend it on more meaningful activities.
We do not fully understand the experience of FOMO and to what extent it is due to social media use, but in the meantime we can still incorporate a few practices to reduce and overcome it:
Confront anxiety - Once there is an acknowledgement of insecurity and anxiety, we learn to accept and overcome it slowly.
Mindful of time spent on social media - Being cognizant of the time we are spending on social media platforms, and how at what time during the day can be a helpful tactic in limiting the experience of FOMO.
Engage in the here-and-now - Being present in the moment will help us gain a greater appreciation of our reality.
*Citations: Barry, C. T., & Wong, M. Y. (2020). Fear of missing out (FOMO): A generational phenomenon or an individual difference? Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 37(12), 2952–2966. https://doi.org/10.1177/0265407520945394
Kopecka-Piech, K., Sobiech, M., Zylinski, S., & Davis, C. H. (2022). FoMO: envy, life satisfaction, and friendship. In Mediatisation of emotional life (1st ed., pp. 213–233). essay, Routledge.